Published Tuesday, 22 October 2013
The SDLP representative said he took the decision following legal advice on proposed changes to the bill by the DUP and Sinn Féin.
The two largest parties at Stormont had wanted to establish special economic zones and to limit the grounds for judicial reviews of major development decisions.
Mr Durkan said, if the bill had gone ahead, it would have been a "toxic" piece of legislation.
He explained: "I believe this bill as amended is a toxic - or sorry, was, a toxic piece of legislation. It was hijacked. There were two amendments put in that flew in the face of democracy and what the people outside of this Assembly want from their planning system."
The amendments sought by the two parties would have reduced the ability for objectors to challenge major planning decisions in court.
Mr Durkan said he has received legal advice that this was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore it's not right for the bill to proceed.
This is not only an attempt to grab existing planning powers from my department, but also an attempt to dis-empower future local government
Mark H Durkan
The DUP has condemned the minister's decision.
Party chief whip Peter Weir MLA said: "This is first and foremost an anti-democratic decision. The Assembly has endorsed these legislative changes.
"Defying the democratic will of the Assembly severely damages the credibility of the SDLP.
"Despite a majority of nationalists and unionists being in favour of this legislation Mr Durkan is allowing party politics to cloud his judgement. As a party that often lectures others about democratic politics, this is rank hypocrisy for the SDLP."
However the move has been welcomed by residents living close to Belfast City Airport who have been campaigning against the extension of a runway.
Dr Liz Fawcett, chair of the campaign's Steering Group, said: "Had this legislation come into force, it would have made it impossible for ordinary people to challenge a planning decision on the grounds that it was irrational, misinformed or contravened domestic law.
"We were very concerned about a number of aspects of this bill, but especially alarmed at the two significant and anti-democratic amendments which were added at the last minute.
"Undermining the integrity of the planning system was never the right way forward."
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt described the DUP and Sinn Féin's actions on planning powers as "ill-conceived, badly thought through and arrogant".
Welcoming Tuesday's announcement, the Strangford MLA continued: "The recklessness of the Sinn Féin/DUP power grab on economic planning powers was so ill-conceived, badly thought through and arrogant that they were actually illegal. Had they bothered to consult, maybe they would have had the error of their ways pointed out."
Alliance MLA Anna Lo said she's pleased with the "correct" decision to withdraw the bill.
She continued: "I already had a number of reservations around clauses which placed greater weight on economic issues rather than environmental considerations. However, amendments, tabled at the last minute by DUP and Sinn Féin dramatically changed the purpose of the bill and meant that, instead of improving our planning system, it would have made it worse."
North Down MLA and Green Party leader Steven Agnew said: "They failed in their stated mission to promote jobs through the planning system by making this amended bill so controversial, through lack of consultation, that they slowed the whole process down when it could have been fast-tracked as a fair bill. The minister has made a sound, rational and right decision not to bring this forward this toxic bill."
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